Work Ethic Wednesday: “More Experience”


Rockne – Just a quick follow-up regarding the post about your son, and the difficulty of finding a work in his chosen field. Along with the million or so people who read our exchange, (reposted below,) was the CEO of a company called HomeServe. HomeServe USA is responsible for keeping many thousands of skilled tradespeople very, very busy, and they reached out to me after reading your post. If your son is willing to relocate, I believe I can arrange an interview. Drop me a line at No guarantees, but the opportunities in the electric field are huge, and these guys are on the front line. Let me know…



Mr. Rowe, I was hoping to garner some advice from you. You are probably the most well know and respected advocate for trades training, My son, a smart and dedicated learner (closing in on his 3rd black belt in TKD), received a scholarship from JATC in Portland for Area 1 inside Electrical. Received the letter on Graduation Day.

The letter, both to him and his school, said he was their highest candidate and received a full ride. He worked his rear end off to earn that. It broadly spoke of working, when he could start etc., but since that time, he can’t seem to get a foot in the door. Actually, I guess he does gets a foot in the door, as he has had many interviews, where he has presented many resumes and letters of recommendation. Every interview leaves him filled with hope, and yet with every one, they let him know they went with someone with “more experience.”

He is never going to have the experience if one of these companies listed by JATC doesn’t live up to their obligation to support the program. Of course it is a risk for them, but his loyalty and dedication are as obvious as the sun coming up. Do you have any advice for him? We have spent money on tools, he gave up his other job to focus on this as he sees it as his career, and he works his butt off in class and dong everything he can to be a positive candidate, but it always boils down to a lack of experience. We are all a little disappointed as this started in June and its November now and he feels no closer. Depressing really for all of us. If you have words of wisdom let us know. I am at wits end and disappointed in the companies but don’t want to rail at them and make the situation worse.

Rockne Helms

Hi Rockne

Advice is a dangerous thing. Dangerous to give, dangerous to take. Here for instance, it’s very tempting to offer the usual platitudes and bromides about persistence and determination, but I’m skittish about dispensing cookie-cutter counsel to people I don’t know – especially when it comes to “staying the course.” Staying the course only makes sense if you’re heading in the right direction, and I can’t say if that’s the case with your son. But let’s assume it is. Let’s also assume the only barrier to his placement is a knee-jerk refusal on the part of local companies affiliated with JATC to take a chance on a bright, hardworking kid with no experience. Here’s what I would do, if I were him.

I would write a letter to everyone who interviewed me thus far, and thank them for their time and consideration. I would tell them I understand the risk of betting on an unproven candidate like me. Then, I would ask them what I can do to eliminate that risk. Is it a money thing? If so, I’d offer to work for free. Maybe for a month? Maybe for more? I’d tell them that I’m the kind of person who is willing to bet on myself, and assure them that my work ethic alone will distinguish me. Then, I’d prove it.

I’d also contact JATC, and ask what I could do to improve my chances of getting placed. I don’t know the details of this program, or the restrictions that come with it, but if these companies are supporting a scholarship/placement program, it makes no sense to disqualify a candidate based on a lack of experience. The entire purpose of such programs, as I understand them, is to provide experience.

Finally, if the local opportunities are simply not there, and relocation is not an option, I’d get creative. I’d use social media. I’d post my picture under a headline that reads, “For Your Consideration.” Then, I’d make the most persuasive case I could make for myself. I’d tell my story. I’d challenge Portland to take a chance on a hardworking, third-degree black belt, scholarship winning teenager who wants to make a career in the trades. I’d tag every company involved in the program. Hell, I’d tag every company in the state.

Good Luck!


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